What Makes a Rattlesnake Rattle?
Snake Boots and Snake Bite Protection
What makes a rattlesnake's rattle...rattle?
New Haven, Connecticut
The sound of a rattler's raspy buzz fills most hikers with dread -- and for good reason.
Rattlesnakes, who belong to the pit viper family, are known for beating the pointy tips
of their tails against the ground to ward off enemies.
A rattlesnake baby is born with what's called a "pre-button" at the end of its tail.
When the rattlesnake sheds its skin (which happens about 10 days after birth and every
few months thereafter), the skin gets caught on the pre-button and a button is formed.
At the second shed, the first segment is formed and can now rattle slightly against
the button. Each time the snake sheds, a new segment is added and the rattle gets longer
and louder. The segments knocking against each other create the sound and allow a
rattlesnake to rattle its tail in the air rather than beat it against the ground.
The rattle can be loud: its frequency can peak at 5,000 to 8,000 hertz
(which is roughly equivalent to an ambulance siren) and at a loudness of 60-80
decibels from a distance of one meter.
However, as a rattlesnake gets older, the outer segments of the rattle sometimes
become brittle and fall off. That's why you can never tell the age of a snake by
the size of its rattle. Not that you were eager to examine them up close anyway.
When you go outdoors always wear your Chippewa Snake Boots to protect yourself
from rattlesnake bite on your calf and ankle.